Jim White may be a perfectly normal guy living a perfectly ordinary life. He may be perfectly normal...but the people he sings about certainly are not...instead, they live gothic lives orbiting life, love, and loss at odd, bittersweet angles.
In a better world, this record would have been a massive commercial hit when it came out back in '01 (one imagines that White might not care as much about that as I do.) In a better world, the irresistible pop hooks of the wryly wonderful "Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi" (twang and all) would have been blaring from every radio speaker in the land for many, many weeks and months.
In a better world, the achingly lovely murder ballad "The Wound That Never Heals" would be waiting in every jukebox in every rundown bar on the wrong side of the tracks in every gray little town...waiting for jilted lovers to play over and over as they drown their sorrows and cry their bitter tears. In a better world people of good cheer would join their voices in ragged, giddy glory as they sang along with the raucous "God Was Drunk When He Made Me" at the top of their lungs.
But it isn't a better world.
But, that said, this amazing record...a stark and moving and utterly engaging collection of vivid, evocative, haunting story songs blending country with hints of rock'n'roll, delta blues, electronica and whatever else occurred to White and his producers while they were making it...is still a remarkable work and I can (and will) take solace in that while waiting for that better world to come along.